Pixel Scroll 9/17/19 Lady Scrollhill’s Rosebud Pixlet

(1) HEADHUNTING. LAD Bible previews a project coming to YouTube on September 25: “A Mockumentary Has Been Made About Star Wars’ Most Famous Blooper”.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… a stormtrooper smashed their head on a door in the Death Star – and people have been wanting to know who it was ever since.

The scene occurs in Star Wars: A New Hope and has become a cult moment for Warsies (that’s what Star Wars fans call themselves apparently). Now, a filmmaker has taken it upon himself to make a mockumentary about the blunder, entitled The Empire Strikes Door.

(2) YOUR BEDTIME IT IS. The Disney Bedtime Hotline is back online. Polygon tells how “You can now call Yoda to wish you a good night”.

Good news to all the insomniacs out there. Disney’s Bedtime Hotline returns from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. The hotline which debuted last August, gave fans a chance to hear bedtime messages from the core Disney cast of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, or Goofy.

The hotline returns for the next two weeks, this time with a lineup taking advantage of Disney’s full trove of IP. In addition to Mickey, callers can also get messages from Woody, Jasmine, and Elsa and Anna, as well as as some unexpected choices from Disney properties. Specifically Yoda and Spider-Man.

That’s right, Yoda is a Disney character and now he tells you about the importance of sleep as you curl up for the night.

Calling 1-877-7-MICKEY — toll free!

(3) FULL FATHOM FIVE. In The Guardian’s weekly segment on “Jumping The Shark,” Ben Gazur contends this is “How Babylon 5 went from space opera to space junk”.

Babylon 5 was a show that should never have been commissioned. Five seasons of the United Nations set in space, anyone? Well, set your phasers to stunned because while Star Trek gets all the glory – what with its big-name actors, great special effects and lasting cultural cachet – it was Babylon 5 that became every true sci-fi fan’s secret favourite.

(4) PREVIEWS OF MOUNT TBR. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson reports on “3 Crackling Young Adult Reads To Welcome Fall”, two of which are genre works.

In Akwaeke Emezi’s Pet, angels have rid the city of Lucille of all its monsters. That’s what Jam has been taught, and she has no reason to doubt it, as she lives a happy life surrounded by her loving parents and her best friend, Redemption. No reason, until a strange and frightening creature crawls out of one of her mother’s paintings, intent on hunt down a monster hiding in their midst. The creature is called Pet, and it tells Jam that her duty is to help search out the evil that has taken root in Redemption’s house. Jam isn’t sure she’s the right person for the task — but what choice does she have, when no one else will even admit that there may still be monsters lurking in the shadows?

…After making her entrance last year with The Light Between Worlds, which asked what happens to the children cast out of portal fantasies once the adventure is over, Laura Weymouth returns with A Treason of Thorns, a full-on alternate history fantasy that imagines an England that is home to Great Houses — sentient buildings that enrich or destroy their regions depending on how well they are managed by their human Caretaker.

(5) JANIS IAN DONATES COLLECTION. Brown University Library announced the acquisition: “Network of Women Writers and Readers Crux of John Hay Library’s Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

The John Hay Library is now home to renowned recording artist, writer, and activist Janis Ian’s collection of personally inscribed works of science fiction and fantasy, many by women and LGBTQ authors. 

The John Hay Library at Brown University is delighted to announce the acquisition of Janis Ian’s personal library, including collections of books of contemporary science fiction and fantasy authors inscribed to her. Among these authors are Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin, Mercedes Lackey, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Diane Duane, and many others. In all, the Library received approximately 200 volumes from Ms. Ian’s collection.

(6) STALLMAN GONE. “Richard Stallman Resigns from MIT”Slashdot has the story.He’s also resigned as President from the Free Software Foundation.

Multiple Slashdotters are reporting the unfortunate news that famed free software advocate and computer scientist Richard Stallman has resigned from MIT. Slashdot reader iamacat writes:

Following outrage over his remarks about Jefferey Epstein’s victims, Richard Stallman has resigned from his position in MIT, effective immediately.

Stallman wrote in an email,

I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT. I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations.

CSAIL is MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

(7) MESSAGE FROM PTERRY? “‘Grim reaper’ stolen from Russian street” – he was gone in sixty seconds.

The Russian city of Arkhangelsk caused a stir by putting up a statue of the Grim Reaper on a roadside to put motorists off speeding, only for thieves to steal it later in the day….

The black-shrouded figure, made to order by a craftsman from local pine, was meant to “discourage drivers from speeding up on that stretch of road since it’s been repaired”, spokeswoman Tatyana Simindei told the site.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 17, 1964Mothra Vs. Godzilla premiered in the U.S.
  • September 17, 1976 — NASA named its first Space Shuttle after a starship from some sci-fi TV show – Enterprise.
  • September 17, 1978 — The original Battlestar Galactica premiered on television. It would last but a single season.
  • September 17, 1982 The Powers of Matthew Star first aired. It ran one season. Harve Bennett (Trek films II–V) was one of its creators and Leonard Nimoy directed the “Triangle” episode while Walter Koenig wrote the “Mother” episode. The original pilot, “ Starr Knight” as written by Steven E. de Souza, writer of The Running Man aired as the final episode. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1908 John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5. I’ve not read them, so how are they as SF?  None of these appear to be available from iBooks but they’re available from Kindle. 
  • Born September 17, 1917 Art Widner. He was a founding member of The Stranger Club which created  Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II which were held in 1941 and 1942, they being the very first two Boston cons. Fancyclopedia 3 has a very detailed  look at him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. (Died 2012.)   
  • Born September 17, 1920 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Gimpel, 80. Performer and stunt woman. Though you’ll literally not recognize her, she was the salt monster aka the M-113 creature (as it was called in the credits) in “The Man Trap” episode of the original Trek. In “The Cage” episode, she played a Talosian. As a stunt woman, she’s been on genre shows ranging from Lost in Space to Lucifer and even appeared on films like Escape from New York
  • Born September 17, 1951 Cassandra Peterson,68. Definitely better known as Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, a character she’s played on TV and in movies, becoming the host of Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation in LA in 1981. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.
  • Born September 17, 1962 Paul Feig, 56. I see that he and Katie Dippold were nominated but didn’t win a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation for their Ghostbusters film. How did it do in the actual voting? 
  • Born September 17, 1965 Bryan Singer, 54. Director of such genre film as including X-MenSuperman ReturnsX-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Born September 17, 1973 Jonathan Morris, 46. SFF television series are fertile grounds for creating spinoff book series and Doctor Who is no exception. This writer has only written four such novels to date but oh, the number of Big Finish audiobooks that he’s written scripts for now numbers in the high forties if I include the Companions and the Jago & Lightfoot series as well. 

(10) LEGO’S NEW GLOBAL CAMPAIGN. From behind a paywall at The Drum:

…The result is ‘Rebuild the World’, Lego’s most significant global brand campaign since the 90s, which was created by BETC in collaboration with The Lego Agency.

Ultimately, the push seeks to position the toy as something that can strengthen creative resilience and problem-solving capabilities in kids – an idea originally floated by BETC in a world where children are more likely to pick up an iPad than open a toybox.

Underpinned by bold, playful creative that will run across TV, online, OOH and cinema, Marcelli describes the campaign as “a new, modern expression of the true, deep foundations” of the brand, and the “perfect interpretation” of its mission to inspire future generations.

At the heart of the drive is a film directed by Traktor Creative, a duo who have previously worked with The Prodigy and Madonna, which shows what the world would look like if it obeyed the rules of Lego play.

(11) DON’T LESNERIZE. “Common cold stopped by experimental approach” reports BBC.

Scientists think they have found a way to stop the common cold and closely related viruses which can cause paralysis.

Instead of trying to attack them directly, the researchers targeted an essential protein inside our cells which the viruses need to replicate.

The approach gave “complete protection” in experiments on mice and human lung cells.

However, the US-based researchers are not ready for trials in people.

(12) THE BUZZ. You are invited to “Meet The Nuclear-Powered Self-Driving Drone NASA Is Sending To A Moon Of Saturn” — includes video simulation.

On the face of it, NASA’s newest probe sounds incredible. Known as Dragonfly, it is a dual-rotor quadcopter (technically an octocopter, even more technically an X8 octocopter); it’s roughly the size of a compact car; it’s completely autonomous; it’s nuclear powered; and it will hover above the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

…”Almost everyone who gets exposed to Dragonfly has a similar thought process. The first time you see it, you think: ‘You gotta be kidding, that’s crazy,’ ” says Doug Adams, the mission’s spacecraft systems engineer. But, he says, “eventually, you come to realize that this is a highly executable mission.”

NASA reached that conclusion when, after a lot of careful study, it gave Dragonfly the green light earlier this summer. “This revolutionary mission would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said when the roughly $1 billion project was selected in June. “A great nation does great things.”

For Shannon MacKenzie, a postdoc on the mission, there’s no destination that could be greater than Titan. The largest moon of Saturn, it has dunes, mountains, gullies and even rivers and lakes — though on Titan, it’s so cold the lakes are filled with liquid methane, not water.

“It is this complete package,” she says. “It’s this really unique place in the solar system where all of these different processes are coming together in a very Earthlike way.”

(13) NOT-SO-HOT BOTS. BBC asks, “Russia and robots: Steel junk or a brave new world?”

Russia likes to boast of its robots – but at the same time it seems to have a somewhat troubled relationship with them.

It has endured a series of very public robotic mishaps, but all is not lost.

Amid much fanfare and praise for the Roscosmos space agency, Russian robot Fedor was launched into space on board a Soyuz 14 spacecraft in August.

Fedor made history as the first such robot ever to be sent into space by Russia, and within moments he was reporting on his progress and all was apparently going to plan.But then, mission control in Houston broke the news that Fedor’s attempt to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) had to be aborted because of a technical problem.

Before his spaceflight, Fedor had been busy impressing observers with his activities. State TV showed him driving a car, firing guns and doing push-ups – but sceptics were critical. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was scathing in a post on Twitter.

“This Fedor the robot is what the Putin regime is all about. The PR idiots at Roscosmos came up with the idea, and engineers had to send a hundred kilos of useless steel junk into orbit,” Navalny wrote…

Alyosha, Boris and Igoryok

Last year, a robot called Boris made an appearance on national television. He announced that he was good at mathematics, but added that he would like to learn how to compose music. He also danced.

Before Boris, Russian TV also reported excitedly about another robot, a huge steel thing called Igoryok, but nobody’s seen it move – or even do anything….

(14) FATHER AND SON HORROR. Netflix has released a trailer for In the Tall Grass, a film based on a novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. It becomes available October 4.  

Some places have a mind of their own. Based on the novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill, when siblings Becky and Cal hear the cries of a young boy lost within a field of tall grass, they venture in to rescue him, only to become ensnared themselves by a sinister force that quickly disorients and separates them. Cut off from the world and unable to escape the field’s tightening grip, they soon discover that the only thing worse than getting lost is being found.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/4/17 A Hollow Voice Says “Pixel”

(0) WE INTERRUPT THIS SCROLL. I will be taking the train to New Mexico to attend my mother’s 91st birthday celebration over the weekend. I leave Thursday evening and get back Tuesday morning. The train won’t have wi-fi and once I get there I’ll be with the family, so I won’t be able to write Scrolls some of these days (any of these days?) I plan to set up in advance a daily stub with hope that some of you will do-it-yourself, as you did so magnificently when I was offline a year ago. Thanks also to Carl Slaughter who has also chipped in some short video roundups that will be unveiling each night.

(1) VANDERMEER DEAL. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak hears from “Annihilation author Jeff VanderMeer on how his next novel is inspired by our dystopian present”.

Annihilation and Borne author Jeff VanderMeer signed a “major deal” with publisher FSG for his next novel, Hummingbird Salamander, and an untitled short story collection. The deal is for over half a million dollars, and VanderMeer tells The Verge that it’s inspired in part by his concerns over the state the world when it comes to right-wing politics, climate change, and national security.

(2) BEHIND BARS CON. Utah author Brian Lee Durfee (with Simon and Shuster) works at the Utah State Prison. With strong support from the facility’s administration, Brian is launching a convention to be held at the prison for the prisoners. Maze Runner author James Dashner will be there. Durfee told his plans and hopes for it on Facebook.

Good idea? Bad idea? COMIC CON inside a prison. Yup! I arranged it. Not as easy as one might think either. I’m calling it PRISON CON…..I will give you a moment with that) . Anyway, as many of you know I’m a Sergeant at the Utah State Prison. I also teach creative writing inside the prison. I also write novels and meet other famous authors in my travels. And I also have WILD ideas that just take root & wont let go. So on Oct 17 all my various worlds will collide! James Dashner (author of the Maze Runner series) and I are putting on a little mini convention for the Inmates. I must thank Dashner for donating his time to this event and Warden Benzon for agreeing to the craziness of it all. Inmates will be Cosplaying as…well…DOC Inmates. I will be in a Darth Vader suit. Not really. But on a serious note, the inmates LOVE books and LOVE reading, and many are even talented writers. It might not seem like much, two writers discussing books and Maze Runner movies, but letting those who are locked up feel as if they are part of normal society for even an hour or two is a huge deal. They are excited for this. So lets hope its a success because I want PRISON CON to grow and become an annual thing. I truly believe going out of your way to make a difference and to give others hope (even if its just in your own small corner of the world) is important to the future of us all. Thanks also to Director Jensen and Sgt Preece and Officer Halladay and all the programming staff and SWAT guys that will be helping. I always wanna promote the positive things that are happening on the inside.

(3) IN MINNESOTA. Cory Doctorow and Charlie Jane Anders will appear together at the Twin Cities Book Festival. Also appearing are cartoonist Roz Chast, and the Lemony Snicket guy, Senator Al Franken and others.

Twin Cities Book Festival, Minnesota State Fairgrounds

Friday, October 13, 2017: 6-7pm Reception; 7-8pm Opening Night Talk

Saturday, October 14, 2017: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

(4) RECONSIDERED. I thank Nerds of a Feather, who took down the post that led off yesterday’s Scroll and issued an apology.

We made the editorial decision to pull a recent post on the video game Destiny. In the post, the author discusses at length the various weaponry used in the game and why some are more effective than others.

Like most of our pieces, this one was written more than a week ago and pre-scheduled by the author. And in normal times, this would just be another piece on video games. But these are not normal times. Two days before the Destiny piece posted, a man used an arsenal of real weapons to murder more than fifty people in Las Vegas, whose only “crime” was attending a music festival.

We do not believe that violence in video games has any more relationship to actual violence than violence in film, comics or pen-and-paper RPGs. But the timing of our post was nevertheless problematic. Like many of you, we are in deep shock and grief over what happened, and are angry that the US government does nothing to prevent these kinds of incidents. Thus we apologize for posting something that appears to treat these issues lightly, and just days after the massacre occurred.

-G, Vance and Joe

(5) WORKADAY WORLD. Galactic Journey, in “[October 4, 1962] Get to work!  (The Mercury Flight of Sigma 7)”, notes that excitement about space missions seems to decline in proportion to their frequency and successes.

Five years ago, satellite launches were quarterly events that dominated the front page.  Now, the Air Force is launching a mission every week, and NASA is not far behind.  The United Kingdom and Canada have joined the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in the orbital club, and one can be certain that Japan and France aren’t far behind.  It’s truer than ever that, as I’ve said before, unmanned spaceflight has become routine.

Yesterday, the same thing happened to manned missions.\

39 year-old Navy Commander Walter M. “Wally” Schirra blasted off early the morning of October 3, 1962, flew for six orbits, and splashed down safely in the Pacific near Midway Island less than half a day later.  His Sigma 7 capsule was in space twice as long as Glenn and Carpenter’s Mercury ships and, to all accounts, it was a thoroughly uneventful trip.  Aside from the whole nine hours of weightlessness thing.

While the newspapers all picked up the mission, radio and television coverage was decidedly less comprehensive than for prior flights.  Part of it was the lack of drama.  Shepard was the first.  Grissom almost drowned.  Glenn’s mission had the highest stakes, it being our answer to the Soviet Vostok flights, and his capsule ran the risk of burning up on reentry.  For a couple of hours, Carpenter was believed lost at sea.

(6) CATNIP. John Scalzi spent a busy day telling trolls how he feels about them, a series of tweets now collected in “A Brief Addendum to ‘Word Counts and Writing Process'”.

Although I can see why Solzhenitsyn would come to mind, writing about oppression is the very reason Solzhenitsyn’s name is known. Wouldn’t it have been a comparative loss if he’d been, say, an untroubled but prolific creator of musical comedies?

(7) PURLOINED PARAGRAPHS. Lou Antonelli, the gift that keeps on taking! After File 770 announced a Storybundle with his book in it this afternoon, Lou ganked the text and put it on his blog without attribution. Admittedly all I had to do was write a frame for Kevin J. Anderson’s description of the project, but I guess a Dragon Award nominee like Lou couldn’t spare five minutes away from his next contender to write a frame of his own.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 4, 1961 Attack of the Puppet People premiered in Mexico.
  • October 4, 1985The Adventures of Hercules premiered and staring Lou Ferrigno.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SATELLITE

  • Launched October 4, 1957 – Sputnik 1

(10) MORE ON SPUTNIK. NBC says “Soviet satellite embarrassed America but also gave U.S. science education a big boost.” — “Sputnik Shook the Nation 60 Years Ago. That Could Happen Again”.

It was the size of a fitness ball, but its effect was bigger than that of any bomb.

Sixty years ago, on Oct. 4, 1957, the world awoke to learn that the Soviet Union had launched a satellite into orbit — the first nation to do so. Sputnik 1 was nearly two feet in diameter and weighed as much as a middle-aged insurance salesman. Most people were stunned.

Why was this so disturbing? The idea of artificial satellites had been around for a while. Indeed, sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke had written up a prescient scheme predicting the use of geosynchronous satellites for communications as early as 1945.

The shock, of course, was because Sputnik was launched at the height of the Cold War.

(11) COMICS SECTION

John King Tarpinian found a space fashion statement in today’s Speedbump.

(12) FROM BINTI TO MARVEL. Nnedi Okorafor will be writing for Marvel’s Black Panther.

(13) A BUNDLE THESE COST. On eBay, golden Yoda cufflinks, baby! A mere $3,999.95! (Tax and shipping mumble).

(14) CANADIAN SFF HALL OF FAME. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association (CSFFA) added three inductees to the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame for 2017: Charles de Lint, Lorna Toolis, and Elisabeth Vonarburg. The announcement was made September 23 at Hal-Con. [H/T Locus Online.]

(15) I INHALED. Fast Company profiles Beyond the Castle: A Guide to Discovering Your Happily Ever After by Jody Jean Dreyer, who worked for the Walt Disney Studios and Disney Parks Division for 30 years in “The Secrets Of Disneyland: A Company Vet Explains How The Magic Happens”. I knew there was an artificial “new car smell” but I didn’t know Disneyland had similar concepts for its attractions.

Provide A Complete Experience—Aromas Included

Think back to your favorite Disneyland ride. Maybe it’s the dusty rock-filled Indiana Jones Adventure, or the rickety, open-air Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Whatever your attraction of choice, your memory of it might include a smell: the stuffy, musty attic air of the Haunted Mansion or the leathery dampness of the Pirates of the Caribbean, with just a hint of gunpowder and sea salt.

“That is on purpose,” says Dreyer.

Disneyland’s Imagineers–the creative force behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts–rely on a scent-emitting machine known as the Smellitzer (patented by Imagineer Bob McCarthy), which produces specific sweet, savory, or mundane smells to accompany various park attractions. Imagineers understand that smell is hardwired to our brain, specifically the area that handles emotions. In her book, Dreyer writes, “That’s why smell can transport us to a time and feeling that we’d long forgotten.”

So whether you’re shopping for a stuffed Donald Duck or clutching your safety bar on Space Mountain, you’ll get a whiff of whatever the Smellitzer crafted to make your experience complete. Even the wafts of popcorn along Main Street U.S.A. are by design.

(16) GOING PUBLIC. Regardless of whether they will be attending, some fans are upset that YaoiCon is letting a Vice Media crew shoot video at the con. The thread starts here.

(17) OUR PAL. Two days next week the Turner Classic Movie channel will run a series of George Pal movies.

(17) FOR YOUR FILES. How could I fail to mention a new product called Pixel Buds? Put them in your ears and they control your mind! Wait, that’s something else.

Loud, proud, wireless.

Google Pixel Buds are designed for high-quality audio and fit comfortably in your ear.

(18) CAT PICTURES. This clever design is available on a variety of products: Cat’s Eye of Sauron (Barad-pûrr).

“The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.”- The Fellowship of the Ring

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Dave Christenson, Tom Galloway, and Dave Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 12/23/16 Kissin’ By the Pixel Scroll

(1) TAILOR-MADE AWARDS. Who can resist a title like that? From The Book Smugglers “The 2016 Unconventional, Not At All Traditional, And Completely Unscientific Book Awards by Sarah Kuhn”.

Choosing a “best of” list is one of those tasks that always seems to send me down a rabbit hole of over-analysis, self-doubt, and internal hand-wringing, somehow ending in watching the same “pug confused by butterfly” video over and over again until I can’t remember what I was doing in the first place.

So! Instead of doing a “best of” list, I’m handing out very specific awards to the books that delighted me in very specific ways in 2016. All of these books brought me so much joy and will surely have a spot on my re-read shelf for years to come.

Best Use of Emoji Flirting Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is one of my favorite authors, a virtuoso at combining endearing characters, ingenious plots, and scorching hot chemistry on every single page. In Hold Me, the much-anticipated sequel to the brilliant Trade Me, Maria Lopez and Jay na Thalang hate each other at first sight—but don’t realize they’re falling in love via the internet magic of online chat. It’s a tricky feat to give characters palpable, believable chemistry when they’re not even in the same room, but Milan’s depiction of Maria and Jay’s whipsmart, banter-y texts and emails made me die a kazillion swoony deaths. And of course their special use of emojis is [emoji of cat with heart-eyes].

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Nalo Hopkinson is Scott Edelman’s guest on the milestone 25th episode of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

For the 25th episode of Eating the Fantastic—which is also the final episode of 2016—my guest and I brunched at Aggio during a break from the Baltimore Book Festival. Aggio is a restaurant from Chef Bryan Voltaggio which the Baltimore City Paper recently dubbed as offering the Best Modern Italian in town.

I’d eaten at Aggio before, but that was when it was still a pop-up within a different Voltaggio restaurant, Range, in Friendship Heights—where, by the way, I recorded an earlier episode of Eating the Fantastic with Carolyn Ives Gilman, which I hope you’ll be moved to download for dessert once you’re done with the entree of this episode.

My guest for this meal was the always entertaining Nalo Hopkinson, winner of the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And she’s more than lived up to the promise of that award, winning the World Fantasy Award for her short story collection Skin Folk, as well as winning the Sunburst Award, the Prix Aurora Award, and many others. Plus her novel, Sister Mine, won my own personal award for being one of my favorite novels of 2013.

(3) CHARTING SF. Mark-kitteh sent a link with an introduction, “A long and interesting survey of the field by the VanderMeers (also the introduction to their recent Big Book of Science Fiction). I liked their determination to look more internationally.”

Since the days of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells, science fiction has not just helped define and shape the course of literature but reached well beyond fictional realms to influence our perspectives on culture, science, and technology. Ideas like electric cars, space travel, and forms of advanced communication comparable to today’s cell phone all first found their way into the public’s awareness through science fiction. In stories like Alicia Yáñez Cossío’s “The IWM 100” from the 1970s you can even find a clear prediction of Information Age giants like Google?—?and when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the event was a very real culmination of a yearning already expressed through science fiction for many decades.

Science fiction has allowed us to dream of a better world by creating visions of future societies without prejudice or war. Dystopias, too, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have had their place in science fiction, allowing writers to comment on injustice and dangers to democracy. Where would Eastern Bloc writers have been without the creative outlet of science fiction, which by seeming not to speak about the present day often made it past the censors? For many under Soviet domination during those decades, science fiction was a form of subversion and a symbol of freedom. Today, science fiction continues to ask “What if?” about such important topics as global warming, energy dependence, the toxic effects of capitalism, and the uses of our modern technology, while also bringing back to readers strange and wonderful visions.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION. The finale of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is the TGM raffle to win a book from DAW Books.

In 24 hours, I’ll be drawing the rest of the winners for the DAW Books raffle, which will officially wrap up the fundraiser.

To enter, just  donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at- gmail.com, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.”

Winners will receive one of the following:

Tad Williams Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.

DAW December Release Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).

You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle.

Looking at the number of bundles remaining, and the number of entries, every $5 you donate will get you an approximately 1 in 6 chance to win. (And hey, even if you don’t win, you’ve gotten yourself a tax deduction and supported a good cause! Not a bad way to wrap up the year, eh?)

I’ll do one more post in a few days to announce the final results. My thanks to everyone who donated, signal-boosted, bid, and otherwise supported the fundraiser. It makes a difference.

(5) PETER DAVID IMPROVING. Kathleen has good news — “Peter David Update Finally Progress”.

I saw Peter yesterday and he was able to stand and take a few steps. This is monumental to getting him home. He is still in pain but nothing compared to that he was even the day before. We know this because he hasn’t taken any painkillers since Wednesday so again a good sign.

So the nebulous might be date is rapidly turning into Saturday, which will mean that he will be home for Chrismas/Hanukkah.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823: “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1958The 7th Voyage of Sinbad opens in American theaters. There’s your average non-Christmas movie. John King Tarpinian says, “Ask people if they know who Ray Harryhausen is and you’ll most likely get a blank stare.  Ask them if they remember seeing a movie with sword fighting skeletons and all of a sudden their eyes glow bright.”
  • December 23, 1986: U.S. pilots, Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, landed the experimental aircraft Voyager in California after a record nine days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds round-the-world flight without stopping or refueling.

(7) COUNTING ON WOMEN. Aziz Poonawalla writes about “Rogue One, the Force, and gender”.

A (female) friend of mine loved Rogue One, but noted an imbalance in the Force:

Wept tears of joy. And not to nitpick the film’s clear feminist intentions, but couldn’t at least a handful of the nameless cannon-fodder strike force be women?

The ramblings that follow began as a long-winded reply, but grew so unwieldy and disorganized that I decided it fit better here. Spoilers may follow.

I thought the gender distributions were significant and consistent with the themes of Balance in the Force, and the tension between Dar and Light, in the movie canon to date. The Empire was entirely male – scientists, warriors, leaders. The Rebellion has women in elite warrior roles (pilots) alongside men, but political leadership is always female, and heroes are equally female (Leia, Rey, and Jyn vs Luke, Finn, and Solo, though the latter was usually just plot catalyst). The Rebellion’s leadership from Mon Mothma to Leia has been female, but the Republic during the Clone Wars was male-led, even before Palpatine (though the Senate had prominent female members). The villains have always been male, with the exception of the Seventh Sister from Rebels (but Rebels is a true ensemble cast and will skew the analysis).

(8) ANYBODY THIRSTY? Space.com poetically sees “Water, Water Everywhere on Dwarf Planet Ceres”.

There’s water, water everywhere on the dwarf planet Ceres, according to new research. New observations have provided direct evidence that water ice is ubiquitous on the surface and shallow subsurface of this massive asteroid.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, and has long been suspected of containing significant amounts of water — estimates projected up to 30 percent of its total mass. Evidence has pointed to water ice being mixed with the rock on Ceres’ surface, and in a few rare cases, more concentrated patches of exposed ice have been found. Ceres has even belched up plumes of water vapor.

(9) A HOMER RUN. There are many strange stories in Odysseus’s long journey home after the sack of Troy, but where do they come from? The BBC speculates about “The strange inspirations behind Greek myths”.

One of the early wrong turns comes when strong northerly winds carry Odysseus off course to the land of the lotus-eaters. The sailors enjoy the local delicacy so much that they forget about returning home and Odysseus has to drag them back to the ships. There are multiple theories for what the lotus could be, such as strong wine or opium.

Another contender is a plant called Diospyros lotus – the scientific name means “fruit of the gods”. The fruits in question are round and yellow with succulent flesh that is said to taste like a cross between a date and a plum. That explains its common name: “date plum”. But could tasty fruit be enough to convince Odysseus’s men to stay put forever?

(10) GREETINGS FROM AN IMAGINARY SEASON. At Fantasy-Faction, Laura M. Hughes reviews Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

‘On the second day of Hogswatch I . . . sent my true love back, A nasty little letter, hah, yes indeed, and a partridge in a pear tree—’

Of the quarter or so of the Discworld I’ve explored, Hogfather is my favourite. Vadim Jean’s TV adaptation is superb: I watch it religiously every Christmas, struck each time by just how much of it – dialogue, stage directions, settings, narration, everything – is lifted directly from the source material. This should tell you much about the quality of the book itself, for rare indeed is an original story ‘adapted’ for the screen with so few alterations.

For me, reading Terry Pratchett’s work is not only a joy but an indulgence, too. Sir Terry is one of my major influences. Those books of his I’ve read, I’ve re-read again and again, taking the time to savour the deliciousness of the prose, the wryness of tone, the trademark humour that is at once delightful and poignant.

(11) SANTA YODA!

(12) CHEWBACCA SINGS SILENT NIGHT. After listening to this, you will know why a silent night is treasured by so many…

Merry Wookie Christmas from HISHE and James Covenant! The brilliant idea for “Chewbacca Sings Silent Night” was actually created in 1999 by Scott Andersen (story here: http://room34.com/chewbacca/) and since then his audio has been shared many times, often without crediting him.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]